Last week, the acclaimed YA novelist Ellen Hopkins, author of such groundbreaking works as Crank and Burned, was “uninvited” from the Teen Lit Fest. According to mediabistro.com, officials of the festival being held in Humble, Texas, were concerned with Hopkins’ rather frank treatment of such issues as drug abuse and prostitution. Earlier this month, a county library and a high school library in New Jersey both pulled from their shelves revolutionary voices, a collection of gay-themed short stories. The anthology, edited by Amy Sonnie, had been a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award in 2000. Today, I read that Annabel Lyon’s The Golden Mean, described in mediabistro as telling “the story of Alexander the Great’s childhood–as seen through the eyes of his adolescent tutor, Aristotle,” has been removed from all gift shops of the BC Ferries company because, according to Lyon’s blog, “the trade paperback still features a [man’s] bare bum on the cover.” This despite the fact that it has made the shortlist for Canada’s literary award. Really? I mean, Really? These are not favorable signs for those who value the right to freedom of artistic expression.
With Banned Books Week almost exactly a month away, I think it’s imperative to shed light on the attempts of some in our society to stifle free expression. This “head-in-the-sand” approach, especially as it pertains to YA titles, does a grave disservice to young readers who seek and greatly benefit from honest treatments of sexual themes as an aid in their own forging of a mature sexual identity. I respect every person’s right to read or not to read the titles of his or her choosing. I respect a parents’ right to monitor their children’s book selections. I do not respect and will not accept, however, anyone’s attempt to control what texts I or my children read. I plan to “vote with my pocketbook” and purchase each of the aforementioned texts as a show of support to these authors and publishers.